I suffer from a lifelong disability—left handedness. Now, some people write or eat with their left hand, but do other things with their right hands. Not me! I drag the right side of my body along with me as a useless attachment that often gets in the way. My left side dominance dictates every aspect of my body. Not only do I write and eat with my left hand, I also chew on the left side of my mouth, listen on the phone with my left ear, and kick with my left foot.
My first grade teacher, aka The Battleax, made eradicating my handedness her crusade for the few months I remained in her class. I remember her swooping down the aisle as I diligently practiced my letters with my giant pencil and Big Chief pad. She’d harrumph her disapproval, snatch the pencil from my fingers, and force it into my right hand. My smooth, neat letters turned into illegible, rickety scrawls. When the principal suggested my mother pull me out of school, she took over as the handwriting expert. A lefty herself, she’d weathered the same discrimination as a child. Her handwriting, a beautiful, disciplined script that flowered across the page, became my guideline. My mother taught me to write using a blackboard. With the angle changed, I dropped the lefty hook that many left handed people use. As a teacher, watching me write on the board often disturbed my students. They commented every single time I wrote on the board. As a result, I arrived every morning to place the bulk of information on the board ahead of time. I was one of the first teachers to jump at the opportunity to use a computer and projector in the classroom.
My left side dominance often causes challenges. I do not always approach the physical world in the same way. Many little things in our lives put the lefty at a disadvantage. Cabinet doors open to the wrong side. As I sit at my desk, the drawers run down the right side to make opening and rummaging easy for the right handed person. For me to access the drawers, I have to turn sideways. My mouse, too, rests on the right. I’ve learned to maneuver it by practicing with games like Bejeweled. I practice every day. For some reason, placing keys in locks often creates a challenge. The angle of approach, geared for the right handed person, means I’m battling the door frame as I insert the key. And don’t forget the ignition in cars or the gear shifts!
Discrimination against lefties is centuries old. I could rattle off many different taboos associated with right versus left. Also, left handed people live shorter lives because they have more accidents. Check your statistics if you don’t believe me. It’s not because we’re klutzes, but because our entire day we must compensate. I figure all of the disadvantages accumulate over our lifetimes, resulting in the false reputation of being clumsy when we’re not.
So as you cut your Christmas wrapping paper in straight lines with grace and ease I hope you remember your lefty friend’s struggle with right handed scissors. When you examine the not-so-perfect wrapping on the gift you receive, keep in mind the challenges of snipping and folding for the left handed.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman